NY Times reporter breaks silence in CIA probe case
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ending her standoff with federal
prosecutors after nearly three months in jail, New York Times
reporter Judith Miller appeared before a federal grand jury on
Friday investigating who in the Bush administration leaked a
covert CIA operative’s identity.
Miller agreed to break her silence and testify after
receiving what she described as a voluntary and personal waiver
of confidentiality from her source, identified as Vice
President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby.
Lawyers close to the case said Miller’s testimony appeared
to clear the way for prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to wrap up
his 2-year-old inquiry into who leaked CIA operative Valerie
Plame’s identity and whether any laws were violated.
Her diplomat husband said Palme’s name was leaked because
he had criticized President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy.
With Miller’s testimony, lawyers said, Fitzgerald could
move quickly to bring indictments in the case. Or he may
conclude that no crime was committed and end his investigation
and possibly issue a report on his findings.
The outcome could shake up the Bush White House, already
reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina
and Wednesday’s indictment of House Republican leader Tom
The leak investigation has ensnarled Bush’s top political
adviser, Karl Rove, as well as Libby. The White House had long
maintained that they had nothing to do with the leak.
Asked if he felt burned by Rove and Libby when he told the
press corps they were not involved, White House spokesman Scott
McClellan said: “It is an ongoing investigation and, as such,
our policy has been and continues to be not to comment.”
He said Bush “wants to get to the bottom of it.”
Miller, who was sent to jail on July 6 although she never
wrote an article about the Plame matter, had no comment before
entering the federal court house to begin her testimony.
Viewed by some as a martyr for press freedom, Miller has
faced criticism in the past for some of her pre-war news
reports on Iraq’s alleged weapons programs. Critics say those
reports helped boost the administration’s case that Iraq posed
a threat. No weapons of mass destruction were found.
Miller was released on Thursday from the Alexandria
Detention Center outside Washington after she and her lawyers
reached agreement with Fitzgerald about the scope of her
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said on behalf of
Libby: “It’s an ongoing investigation and one in which we are
Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said: “This doesn’t involve
Karl and he has not been contacted” by Fitzgerald.
Legal sources close to the case said Miller was under
growing pressure to testify because Fitzgerald could have
sought to impose a stiffer criminal sentence against her.
A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment. Fitzgerald
had indicated earlier this year that he could wrap up his
investigation once he obtained the testimony of Miller, lawyers
involved in the case said.
Fitzgerald had already secured the cooperation of Time
magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who agreed to testify after
saying he received the “express personal consent” of his source
to reveal his identity.
Cooper told the grand jury that Rove was the first person
to tell him about Plame, although Cooper said Rove did not
disclose her name. Cooper said he also discussed her and her
husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, with Libby.
Syndicated newspaper columnist Robert Novak first revealed
Plame’s identity in a column on July 14, 2003, citing two
administration officials, shortly after Wilson, on July 14,
published an opinion piece in The New York Times that accused
the administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq.
According to The Times, Miller met with Libby on July 8,
2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week.
Plame’s husband has long asserted the leak was meant to
discredit him for criticizing Bush’s Iraq policy in 2003 after
a CIA-funded trip to investigate whether Niger helped supply
nuclear materials to Baghdad.
After initially promising to fire anyone found to have
leaked information in the case, Bush in July offered a more
qualified pledge: “If someone committed a crime they will no
longer work in my administration.”
Prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the
architect of his two presidential election victories and now
his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified
Rove’s attorneys said Rove did nothing wrong.